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Starting Therapy: What to Expect

Today we are going to talk about what it’s like to start therapy – how to find a therapist, and what to expect.

Most people feel a little nervous making the first call to a potential therapist, especially if they have never been in any type of counseling before. That’s to be expected, and you can tell a lot about the therapist by how they help you manage that first call.  For example, were they able to talk with you, or to return your call in a reasonable amount of time? Were they courteous and respectful? Did they allow you to ask any questions you may have? All of that can give you a sense of who you are talking to, before you even schedule an appointment. If you get an uncomfortable vibe, or it takes them a week to call you back, this may not be your therapist.

There are a variety of ways to find a therapist. One of the best is word of mouth. Quite often though, people don’t talk openly about seeing a therapist, so you may find yourself searching the internet, asking your physician, or visiting directories of therapists such as GoodTherapy.org or Psychology Today. Some things to keep in mind is the therapist’s office location, their hours of availability, their education and experience, and in general, their approach to therapy and the issues you want to work on. What matters most is your gut feeling when you meet the therapist. Is this someone who feels right to you? The relationship between therapist and client is of vital importance. A sense of trust, respect, and acceptance are all part of what make up a successful therapeutic relationship.

Price is likely to be a concern as well. There is generally an accepted range for services among licensed therapists, and you will want to know what your potential therapist charges. Some therapists offer a sliding scale to help make treatment affordable, or offer multiple session packages where you can save money as well. Not all therapists accept insurance, for a variety of reasons. Iwill put a link below to my site where I discuss the insurance issue in more detail.

So what happens at your first appointment? Every therapist has his or her own way of doing things, but there may be only a few differences. I’ll tell you a bit about how I get started with a new patient.In my office, new clients bring in their completed intake forms, and we use that as a starting point, going through the forms together to learn about you and your reasons for seeking therapy. I ask about things like physical health, diet, sleep habits, and any medications you may be taking. I will want to know about the relationships in your life, and what you would like to see happen by coming to therapy. New clients are sometimes nervous and I want to help them feel at ease and accepted. I start right away in encouraging clients to speak up when they have a need or a concern – most likely when they find they can do it with me, with good results, it will be easier to use that skill with others as well.

Your first visit is also a time for your questions. You may want to know if the therapist has treated issues like yours before,or how long treatment will take. There is no set answer for how long treatment lasts, but I can tell you there is no guaranteed “quick fix.” Therapists are not there to tell you what to do, unless there is an actual risk of real danger. We are there to examine your options and help you move toward the changes you want to see happen.

Therapists are trained to listen to you, and maybe sometimes we even hear what you don’t say, by your facial expression or tone of voice. We work to help you identify your goals and then move toward them.

That was a basic overview of starting therapy, and what you might expect. I welcome your comments below about therapy and how this whole process worked for you. 

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